Blackberrys, PDA Phones, and Frog Soup

“Frog Soup” is an interesting concept. As a cold-blooded critter, a frog cannot easily feel the difference between hot and cold, although when cold the frog, like all cold-blooded animals, gets a bit sluggish. On the other hand, when you put a frog in a pot of water, and start to turn up the heat, the frog will not notice the gradual rise in temperature, and will be happily swimming around up till the point the frog finally succumbs and is cooked.

So we use the phrase “frog soup” as a metaphor describing how we can get ourselves into a situation through time, without ever having really been aware we were getting into a situation. This metaphor can be applied to relationships, jobs, life – almost anything where you wake up one day “cooked,” without ever having suspected you were in hot water.

I’ve been using email since the mid 1970s, when I was first dabbling with messaging systems in the US Air Force. Even back then, I quickly established a routine for connecting to the network, and often checking to see if I had received any new messages. By the 1990s it had gotten to the point where I would actually delay other activities just to check and see if anybody had sent me an email in the past hour or so.

Thus, when I had received my first Blackberry, I was probably already in some pretty hot water. How many of us can relate to our need to carry our Blackberry EVERYWHERE we go. To parties, the bathroom, driving, and end the day by putting the Blackberry next to our bed at night in case somebody decides they need to reach us at 0230 in the morning? I even have people SPAMing me, upset because I did not respond to their email within 5 minutes of receipt.

Do you remember the good old days when you could get off work, go home, and your life was essentially yours until you showed up at your workplace the next morning (OK, OK, I am also an operations guy and understand the concept of an “on call” career)? You might occasionally meet the “guys” for a drink or pizza on the way home, but most of the time your life was yours outside of the office.

Employers must really like the idea of being connected with their staff 24 hours a day. Some people may call it “untethered,” some may call it “telecommuting,” some may call it “flexible work-enabling technology.” I call it being “owned” by my company. “Sorry dear, I can’t come to dinner because I just got an email from my boss, and he needs some information tonight to respond to his boss asking for additional information.” Or, if your boss sends a broadcast email to 15 people, and some are already acknowledging the email, and suddenly you have a cold chill running down your spine that says “I better respond to my boss quickly, or he will think I am not motivated.”

Sometimes, when my mind is not fully engaged in where I am at in the global mesh of being wired to technology, I think of the good old days. Walking down to Ala Moana Beach with a novel, some cold drinks, and a sincere desire to get a jump on my tan. Prioritizing a jog around the Ala Wai, Diamondhead, Magic Island, or even just a beach run in Long Beach. Spending the weekend at a distant island, far away from any technology or – can you believe this…, or even a Starbucks?

We must resist allowing our lives to become cooked like the frog in a pot of boiling water. Blackberrys and PDA phones are wonderful technology, but life is also a wonderful thing. I am currently considering PDA rehab, with the objective of gradually reducing my addiction to PDA phones. I will leave the phone in another room to charge overnight, or even consider turning the thing off for a minimum of 8 hours a day. Maybe even consider turning it off for a whole weekend (ouch!).

I’d be very interested in how you avoid being “cooked” by succumbing to the frog soup of our Blackberry culture.

John Savageau, Long Beach

About johnsavageau
Another telecom junkie who has been bouncing around the international communications community for most of the past 35 years.

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